Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Really, I'm Trying

Because I am moving next month I put myself on a book diet - I told myself I would buy no new books because I already have too many and they are going to be a nightmare to move. But in the last three days I've bought two books: The Journals of Joyce Carol Oates 1973-1982 and The Sea Lady by Margaret Drabble. I can only plead they were both on sale and therefore should not have been passed up. Right? The fact that they are both hardcover and heavy I am trying to ignore. I am now praying to the book god to give me strength. (I actually meant strength to stop buying more books, but maybe I should just give up on that and pray for the other, muscle, kind of strength.)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Public Confessions of a Middle-Aged Woman (Aged 55 3/4)

Who doesn't love Sue Townsend? The creator of Adrian Mole ( I can't believe that is the first time I've mentioned Adrian Mole on this blog). Anyway this book, Confessions of a Middle-Aged Woman (Aged 55 3/4) has nothing to do with Adrian Mole (though he does get a quick mention or two). This is a collection of monthly columns Sue Townsend wrote for Sainsbury's Magazine. Mostly they are about Townsend's day to day life: her new stove, vacations, nudity, burglaries, carpenters, and most alarming to me, Townsend's struggles as she slowly loses her sight due to diabetes. Even a subject as terrifying as that she handles with humour and courage and grace, making me admire her all the more. Though I liked some pieces better than others, overall this book was a wonderful way to while away a few summer hours.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Jamaica Inn

Years ago (okay it was decades ago, don't remind me) an offhand remark by a teacher made me realize authors go in and out of fashion. It was an idea that disturbed me then and still disturbs me. What? Even authors are subject to the ever-changing moods of the times? Is nothing sacred? I guess not because over the years I've noticed this to be true. Which brings us to Daphne duMaurier. She is an author who was in (in a big way), then out, and whose star is rising again, I think. And I'm happy about this because duMaurier writes old-fashioned sorts of tales of love and suspense that are hard to put down. She deserves to be read. Granted she may not write the most beautiful prose you've ever read but she will keep you up passed your bedtime.

I'm slowly making my way through duMaurier's novels. Last week I finished reading Jamaica Inn: Mary Yellan's mother's dying wish was for her daughter to go live with her Aunt Patience after her death. Little did Mary's mother know that Aunt Patience was now married to Joss Merlyn, an outlaw who ran the forbidding Jamaica Inn on a lonely stretch of the Cornish coast. Soon after arriving Mary realized mysterious things happened under cover of darkness at Jamaica Inn. Things she was warned to ignore, but couldn't. Toss in a band of criminals, an albino vicar and a handsome stranger Mary is not sure she can trust and you have the page-turner that is Jamaica Inn.

Incidentally if you are interested in reading a Daphne duMaurier novel and aren't sure where to start, I'd recommend her best known novel, and the one I read first, Rebecca.

First line of Jamaica Inn by Daphne duMaurier: It was a cold grey day in late November.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Just Out of Curiosity

Just out of curiosity what makes you NOT like a novel? Better yet - what makes you abandon reading a novel? Is it that you don't like the plot? The characters? The writing? A combination?

For myself, I've noticed I'll soldier on through all sorts of boring plot shenanigans and awkward writing if I love a character, but if I don't like the characters the book usually get puts down and never picked back up.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Please Apply Within

We're moving next month and though I am wildly excited about it, dread fills me every time I look at all our books. Moving a few thousand books is going to be back-breaking work, isn't it? I thought so. If you've done this sort of foolishness yourself and learned a few things along the way, this would be the time to give me your hard earned wisdom. It will be much appreciated. So please tell me where you learned to levitate books. Or how you figured out how to twitch your nose and make your library disappear from your shabby old digs and magically reappear in your wonderful new address. Or if you would like to apply for the position of Chief Book Mover please apply within.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Brideshead Re-revisited

I don't understand why anyone would make a new film version of Brideshead Revisited after it has been so beautifully, so lovingly, so perfectly done in the 1980's 11 part British miniseries. Why I ask you? Why set yourself up for failure like that? Life dishes out enough of it already, don't go begging for it. Pick another book would have been my advice, but I wasn't asked. I guess it's obvious I won't be lining up at the movie theatre for this one, huh? It does make me want to see the miniseries again though. It's available on DVD, I was just eyeballing it on Amazon. Really, if you haven't seen the miniseries yet and you get the chance to, don't miss it. Maybe PBS will play it again. That would be wonderful. Please PBS, please play Brideshead Revisited again.

Of course, nothing compares to the book. But I knew you knew that.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

A Gamble Pays Off

Have you heard about this novel, The Lace Reader? It is some sort of supernatural mystery by first time author, Brunonia Barry. But it's not the novel that interests me - it is the story behind the novel. Apparently after she finished writing the book, Barry and her husband decided to self-publish instead of taking the traditional route and submitting it to publishers. Now I've heard stories about people self-publishing, I've even heard a few success stories - but nothing like this. Barry and her husband gambled big - they spent $50,000 of their own money putting this book together and promoting it. Reading between the lines it sounds to me like they worked hard - really hard - trying to get people to read this book. They went to bookstores, conventions, even got book clubs to read it and then listened to readers' feedback and made a few editorial changes. Their lucky break came when The Lace Reader got a starred review in Publishers Weekly. Then Hollywood pricked up its ears and soon after the big publishers were in a bidding war over the rights. Morrow won out by wooing Ms. Barry with a rumoured 2 million dollars, two book deal.

Sounds like a fairy tale, doesn't it? But to be fair, it sounds like the author took care of all the really important stuff first. Meaning she wrote a good story. From the reviews I've read it seems this is a hard-to-put-down sort of tale, with a great surprise twist near the end. It also seems that when the Barrys were promoting their self-published baby they sent it out to book bloggers. I wasn't sent the book, and I have no idea how big of a role bloggers played in getting the word out about this book, but it is an avenue of promotion that I don't think is being used as much as it could be by publishers, large and small. Maybe in the future. In the meantime, congratulations to Brunonia Barry!